‘Sacred Stains’: A Sneak Peek Into the Dark Corners of Menstruation

Menstruation is normal, period.

But menstrual hygiene continues to be a privilege which many can’t afford. There are a lot of women/ girls who use ash, sand, leaves, hay, newspapers, sawdust and dirty clothes, among other things during menstruation. Besides, the taboos and myths surrounding it makes it even worse for women, both young and old, in urban and rural landscapes.

Niraj Gera, an internationally-acclaimed photographer and social reformer, did a photo-series called ‘Sacred Stains’ to uncover the dark and discreet side of periods. The photos shed light on myths associated with periods, unhygienic substitutes for pads/tampons and further highlights the pain and anguish of women during periods – unfiltered and in its truest form.

However, the journey behind releasing the series wasn’t easy for Gera as he faced difficulties in getting women to share their problems with him and engaging with men and women who continue to believe in the stigma attached to a normal monthly-cycle. But, as Gera says, he didn’t give in and with the support of friends, volunteers and other organisations, managed to release the photos this year, on May 28 – menstrual hygiene day.

Gera is also a founding-member of Humanify Foundation – an NGO that aims at giving voice to the marginalised sections of society – and has launched a campaign asking the government to provide free sanitary pads to underprivileged women so that they don’t fall prey to serious medical conditions such as infection in the uterus, allergies and in worst scenario, even cancer.

“We urge Honourable prime minister Sh. Narendra Modi ji & government of India to hear the silent cry of these poor women/girls, who are suffering every month because of the lack of hygienic amenities, and provide them eco-friendly pads, menstrual cups or tampons,” says the online petition.

Thus far, it has received more than 2 lakh signatures from people across India.

All images provided by Niraj Gera